Russia Vs Ukrain

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VILNIUS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine “removed any doubts and ambiguities about whether Ukraine will be in NATO” during the alliance’s two-day summit in Vilnius that ended on July 12.

He welcomed the security guarantees provided by the countries of the Group of Seven (G7), saying never before had Ukraine had such a base on which to build a security foundation on the way to NATO membership.

“On this foundation, we will build a new, legally binding architecture of bilateral security agreements,” he said, assessing the results of the summit positively, saying the meeting brought clarity to Ukraine’s future membership in NATO.

“For the first time, not only are all members of the alliance in agreement with [Ukrainian membership], but also a significant majority in the alliance is energetically approaching it,” he said after the summit in the Lithuanian capital closed. “Never before have the words ‘you are equal among equals’ for Ukraine from other NATO members sounded truly meaningful.”

The G7 announced the arrangement in the wake of Kyiv’s disappointment after the NATO summit issued a vaguely worded statement saying the 31-member defense organization “will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met,” without releasing details on what the conditions are.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that despite the lack of an invitation to join, Ukraine “is now closer to NATO than ever before,” adding, “I look forward to the day we meet as allies.”

Zelenskiy earlier on July 12 welcomed a long-term security “framework” for Ukraine offered by the G7, but stressed it isn’t a replacement for a clear timetable from NATO for membership in the military alliance.

“The best guarantee for Ukraine is to be in NATO,” Zelenskiy told reporters.

The G7 framework lays the groundwork for each nation in the group to negotiate agreements to help Ukraine bolster its military over the long term.

It will provide more defense equipment, increase and accelerate intelligence sharing, bolster support for cyber and hybrid threat defenses, expand training programs and military exercises, and develop Ukraine’s industrial base. It will also allow for long-term bilateral security agreements between Kyiv and the G7 countries.

“Supporting their progress on the pathway to NATO membership, coupled with formal, multilateral, and bilateral agreements and the overwhelming support of NATO members will send a strong signal to [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and return peace to Europe,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.

The Kremlin immediately lashed out at the security agreement, saying it is “a mistake.”

“We consider this extremely ill-judged and potentially very dangerous,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow, adding that “by providing security guarantees to Ukraine, they’re infringing on Russia’s security.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said after the summit ended that the Kremlin was ready to respond to threats by using all necessary means.

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“The results of the Vilnius summit will be carefully analyzed. Taking into account the challenges and threats to Russia’s security and interests that have been identified, we will respond in a timely and appropriate manner, using all means and methods at our disposal,” the ministry said in a statement. “In addition to the decisions already taken, we will continue to strengthen the country’s military organization and defense system.”

On the final day of the summit, the alliance also launched a new forum for deepening ties with Ukraine, known as the NATO-Ukraine Council. It’s intended to serve as a permanent body where the alliance’s 31 members and Ukraine can hold consultations and call for meetings in emergency situations.

Zelenskiy welcomed the fresh pledges of support, saying the Ukrainian delegation “is bringing home a significant security victory for Ukraine, for our country, for our people, for our children,” he said.

Zelenskiy also met on the sidelines of the summit with U.S. President Joe Biden, who later told a crowd at Vilnius University that U.S. and allied commitment to Ukraine “will not weaken.”

Biden and Zelenskiy discussed further security cooperation and internal processes in Russia, “taking into account the latest events” — an apparent reference to last month’s mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group.

Biden told the Ukrainian president after their meeting that “the United States is doing everything we can to get you what you need.”

U.S. support “will last long into the future,” Biden said after the face-to-face meeting. “We’re going to help Ukraine build a strong, capable defense.”

In his speech at the university, Biden pledged that Western allies “will not waver” in defense of Ukraine, casting the struggle against Russian aggression as one of the world’s central challenges.

“Our unity will not falter,” Biden declared. “I promise you.”

Calling Lithuania a country that knows the “transformational power of freedom,” Biden drew parallels between Lithuania’s struggle to escape Soviet rule and Ukraine’s ongoing fight to repel Russia’s invasion.

“America never recognized the Soviet occupation of the Baltic,” he said to cheers from the crowd in a courtyard draped with U.S. and Lithuanian flags.

The president pointed to the U.S. and allied response to Moscow’s invasion as a model for how to respond to other global challenges, from climate change to the rise of China, touting the strength in the broad and deep coalition.

“Our commitment to Ukraine will not weaken,” he said. “We will stand for freedom today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.”

Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace raised eyebrows by suggesting that Ukraine should appear more grateful for Western military support and not treat allies like “Amazon.”

In comments cited by multiple British media outlets, Wallace said he had heard “grumbles” from lawmakers in Washington that “we’re not Amazon.” He agreed with the statements, saying he had told the Ukrainians the same.

Sunak’s spokesman, Max Blain, downplayed the remarks. “I think you have heard from President Zelenskiy repeatedly…about his gratitude to the people of the United Kingdom for their support and their generosity,” Blain said.

With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Vilnius, Reuters, AP, and AFP

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